The best bear books toddlers can sink their teeth into

Terry Pierce Author Of Eat Up, Bear!
By Terry Pierce

Who am I?

I’m the author of 25 children’s books, and I recently moved to a small mountain town that has come to co-exist with wild black bears by learning how to properly store and dispose of our food (rather than the alternative, which was to eliminate the bears!). Ever since I’ve lived there, I’ve been fascinated by human-bear interactions, having a few of my own now! When Yosemite Conservancy put out a call for children’s stories, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about—how people can help keep bears safe and wild through proper food storage. I’m a huge advocate for bears and all wildlife!


I wrote...

Eat Up, Bear!

By Terry Pierce, Nadja Sarell (illustrator),

Book cover of Eat Up, Bear!

What is my book about?

Curious, hungry black bears just want to eat! Juicy berries, tender grubs, sticky honey—that’s good bear food. But if little adventurers and their families don’t watch out, their food will be bear food, too! The rhyming text and vibrant pictures in this board book show how people of all ages can help keep bears safe and thriving. Perfect for first-time and seasoned campers alike.

Years ago, a bear stole all my food on a backpacking trip, despite tying the food in a tall pine tree (bears are persistent when they know food is at hand—or should I say “paw”!). This book is written to teach toddlers and their families about food storage so this doesn’t happen to them, and helps keep bears wild.

The books I picked & why

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So Big! Yosemite

By Melissa Iwai (illustrator),

Book cover of So Big! Yosemite

Why this book?

So Big! Yosemite was the first board book I had read that is sold by Yosemite Conservancy. I thought, “I wish I had written this book” because it perfectly captures what small children feel when they visit Yosemite National Park. It features a black bear throughout the story, with a repeating question, “How big is so big!” From black bears to El Capitan to Tuolumne Meadows, everything in Yosemite National Park is “so big!” to little ones.


National Geographic Kids Look and Learn: Bears

By National Kids,

Book cover of National Geographic Kids Look and Learn: Bears

Why this book?

National Geographic Look & Learn Bears is a perfect introduction to bears for toddlers. As a former Montessori preschool teacher, I appreciate the simplicity of the text, photographs, and book design. The book shows five common types of bears (black, brown, polar, pandas, and sun bears). Each bear is shown over two-page spreads and gives one interesting fact that would appeal to the toddler crowd. I could just see my own son at that age enjoying this book.


National Geographic Readers: All about Bears

By National Kids,

Book cover of National Geographic Readers: All about Bears

Why this book?

What I love about Nat Geo’s All About Bears Pre-Reader is that it’s the perfect “next bear book” after a board book (those books typically written for toddlers). Because the book is a pre-reader, the text is simple enough for a 2-3-year-old to understand. In true Nat Geo style, the text is simple, and the book’s design and the photographs are excellent. It really is a terrific book for very young children who want to learn more about bears.


If You Were a Bear

By Rachel Mazur,

Book cover of If You Were a Bear

Why this book?

I recommend If You Were a Bear for two big reasons. First, I love that near the end, it addresses proper food storage and why it’s problematic for wild bears to develop a taste for human food. This is the basis of my own book. It’s incredibly important to the survival of bears that humans be vigilant about proper food storage and disposal. The other reason I recommend If You Were a Bear is because the rhyming text opens with the imaginative question, What would it be like to wake up being a bear cub? We know children love to stretch their imaginations! Once the premise is introduced, the story goes on to show a cub’s first year of life.


If I Were a Bear

By Shelley Gill,

Book cover of If I Were a Bear

Why this book?

What I found most enjoyable about If I Were a Bear is that it uses a rhyming text to share simple facts about various Alaskan bears. It’s a lovely combination of lyrical writing and nonfiction, with soft watercolor illustrations by Erik Brooks. Young children love hearing rhyming texts (their brains actually need rhythm and patterns for healthy development!), so whenever I find a book with well-written rhyme that conveys factual information, it’s a winner in my book!


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